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How to help build self-esteem during challenging times

By Amanda Morin

Self-esteem  is how much people value themselves and how important they believe they are in their world. Developing positive self-esteem is important for everyone. But it can be harder for people who learn and think differently. 

That’s because self-esteem is tied to how capable we feel. People who learn and think differently often have to work harder to make progress in school and at work. They may struggle socially, too.

It can be hard to talk to someone about the things they need to get better at. But addressing those topics clearly can actually help them develop self-esteem.

Self-esteem comes from working hard toward a goal. Positive self-esteem comes from recognizing your efforts, finding your strengths, and knowing that mistakes are learning opportunities. Over time, people can learn to improve how they view and value themselves.

Dive deeper

Why kids need to learn to fail

Failure can be a great teacher. When kids know there are solutions to mistakes, it can help build their self-esteem. It gives them the chance to find the “next time I can” in their mistakes.

For example, you could say, “Yep, you spilled the juice. Next time you’re pouring the juice, you can hold your glass over the sink.” Kids who know that failing is just a first try also know that it’s OK to try in the first place. 

Hear from experts on why it’s OK to let kids fail

The importance of mentors

Knowing there are successful people who learn and think differently who faced similar challenges can help you feel less alone. It can also help you see a path forward.

Consider seeking out a mentor  — someone who’s a little further along in the journey to guide and support you.

Next steps

Growth mindset and self-esteem are closely connected. People with a growth mindset believe their abilities can improve over time. (As opposed to people with a fixed mindset, who think their abilities are set and can’t change, no matter how hard they try.) Our mindset affects how we face challenges and setbacks and helps reframe how we approach challenges. 

Having a growth mindset makes it easier to recognize that things may not always be that hard. And when people see that they can make improvements, it builds positive self-esteem. 

Download growth mindset activities .

Related topics

Confidence and self-esteem Confidence and self-esteem

Did you know?

To build kids’ self-esteem, praise their efforts. But don’t shower them with praise for everything they do.

More on: Confidence and self-esteem

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